Unbleached Coffee Filters Explained (Detailed)

Making Pour-over Coffee using Unbleached coffee filter

In a nutshell, unbleached coffee filters may slightly affect the taste of your coffee. Therefore, it is suggested that you double rinse your filter to avoid the papery taste.

Unbleached coffee filters cost a little more but they’re environment-friendly as they don’t involve the use of toxic chemicals compared to bleached filters.

Coffee filters exist in a number of different forms, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll concentrate on the most common: paper. 

Paper filters are classified into two types: bleached and unbleached

Although they are essentially the same, the variation in manufacturing has produced a division among coffee aficionados. 

Apparently, there’s been some heated debate over which types give unpleasant flavors to your cup of coffee.

Numerous people believe that natural or unbleached filters result in a papery taste.

While others believe that because of the chemicals used in bleached filters, they can’t possibly be good for your body.

But first, let’s talk about coffee filters in general.

What Is A Coffee Filter?

A coffee filter is a tool used in the preparation of coffee. It allows the coffee grounds to be trapped while allowing the liquid to run through.

If you decide on a certain brewing method that would need filtering such as the pour-over method, you have three choices: paper, metal, or cloth.

Most commonly, people use coffee filter paper, as most coffee filters are made of disposable paper.

Paper filters can eliminate oily components known as diterpenes, which are found in unfiltered coffee and have anti-inflammatory qualities.

Additionally, this type of filter is high-wet strength paper. Hence, it must retain at least 15% of its original dry strength; certain high wet-strength paper can retain up to 50%.

Modern coffee filter papers have great processability. 

They are strong enough to resist the high speeds of fully automated conversion machinery. The porous structure allows coffee to flow easily into a funnel between the filter walls because of its air permeability.

Simultaneously, coffee grounds are retained, preventing sedimentation in the cup.

Manufacturers attempted to develop an optimal structure that would allow the coffee bean’s pure scent and richness of tastes to shine through while preventing the coffee from mixing with unwanted flavors.

All paper coffee filters are of the disposable type

They can be categorized in a variety of ways, based on the type of pulp used, the capacity, the seal type, as well as the paper surface.

In turn, it may be classified as follows:

Capacity (size of the bag)Size #1, Size #2, Size #4, Size #6
Seal Typeheat sealable (hard pods, soft pads, bags)
non-heat sealable (vending one cup filters, capsules)
Kind of Productpod, pad, bag, capsule
Coffee Filters Categories

What Are Unbleached Coffee Filters?

Pouring over unbleached coffee filter.

Unbleached coffee filters are one type of coffee paper filter which didn’t undergo bleaching processing thus retaining its natural brown color.

Coffee filter papers may be divided into two types based on their raw material: bleached or unbleached pulp.

These two types of pulp are used in the processing of coffee filter paper.

It has become a common practice to differentiate between filters made of bleached pulps and filters made of unbleached pulps.

Unbleached papers are brown, whereas bleached papers are white. All paper has a brown appearance and must be bleached to become white.

The bleaching agents chlorine and oxygen are being used to improve brightness or remove lignin, which causes the paper to appear yellow in sunlight.

Why Are Bleached Coffee Filters Bad?

Bleached coffee filters are bad because they pose harm to the environment and their chemical contents can also potentially transfer to your coffee.

There are two types of bleaching processes: chlorine and oxygen

The more natural of the two, oxygen bleaching, is typically a sign of a higher quality bleached filter.

Cheaper filter papers are bleached with chlorine to attain their white appearance.

Minimally processed goods are often healthier for the environment since they need less energy.

The majority of paper is bleached with chlorine, which produces dioxin and organochlorine residues.

According to studies, if you prepare your coffee using white or bleached paper filters, 20-40% of the dioxins in the filter (containing TCDD, the most toxic dioxin) can leak into your cup of coffee.

As a reference, investigative research also revealed that bisphenol A (BPA), nonylphenol (NP), as well as certain of their chlorinated byproducts can transfer from coffee filters into the solution. 

This is the first study regarding the presence of chlorinated derivatives of BPA and NP in FCPs as well as their migration, which also offers critical information for understanding human exposure to BPA, NP, and their chlorinated compounds.

Although using bleached coffee filters only contains minimal toxic compounds, birth defects, cancer, and reproductive and developmental problems have all been related to excessive dioxin and organochlorine exposure.

Despite this, it has become commonly accepted to use bleached coffee filters as it’s fairly safe for making coffee.

Are Unbleached Coffee Filters Toxic?

No, unbleached coffee filters are not toxic.

Filter papers for coffee or tea are composed of cellulose fibers with very few additives. They are made primarily with the sulfate or sulfite method, but also with the use of linters on occasion.

Unbleached papers, in general, have a stronger odor than bleached papers.

Crepe paper is used to make coffee filter papers.

Creping allows the coffee to easily flow between the filter and the filtration funnel. The basic ingredients for filter paper are coarse long fibers, which are frequently derived from fast-growing trees.

According to one study, a single brominated species was discovered in both chlorine bleached and unbleached paper.

Additionally, it was found that there is no difference in paper structure between bleached and unbleached filters. There is no indication that larger contaminations, such as migrating chemicals from the packaging, are present within the paper.

You can reduce your exposure to toxins by going organic and using a stainless or glass coffee maker with unbleached filters to make an excellent cup of coffee.

Why Are Unbleached Coffee Filters More Expensive?

Unbleached coffee filters are natural and not harmful to dispose of.

Environmentally-conscious consumers are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products.

In a world where everything appears to revolve around financial resources, even saving the planet requires money.

Because bleached coffee filters are unnatural, they take longer to dispose of. Unbleached coffee filters are better for the environment, but they are also a little more expensive.

There are two probable reasons behind this: demand and marketing.

Since demand for unbleached coffee filters is lesser than for bleached filters, businesses charge more to bridge the gap.

In terms of marketing, businesses know that customers who buy unbleached coffee filters are more inclined to spend money on them.

This is because customers who purchase these filters are assumed to do so in an effort to minimize the damage bleached filters have on the environment and potentially, their health. 

As a result, they’re usually keen to pay a bit more, and the businesses capitalize on this.

As a matter of fact, according to data, environmentally-conscious customers are usually willing to pay extra for eco-friendly goods like unbleached coffee filters.

However, according to a test, price doesn’t determine quality when it comes to coffee filter papers. 

According to the strength property results, the cheapest papers, such as X-tra and Rainbow, outperformed the more expensive papers, Eskimo and Melitta.

Are Natural Coffee Filters Unbleached?

A cup of coffee with an unbleached filter.

Yes! Coffee filter papers are categorized as white or bleached, as well as natural or unbleached.

Since unbleached coffee filters have not undergone the process of bleaching, these are less harmful to the environment. They also preserve their natural brown color, hence the term, “natural”.

Brown or natural filters results in a somewhat papery flavor that you would not get from a white or bleached filter.

It’s strongly advised that you clean your filter using hot water either once or twice before brewing to avoid unpleasant flavors to your cup of joe.

Which Is Better, Bleached Or Unbleached Coffee Filters?

Unbleached filters do not produce a better cup of coffee, but they are more eco-friendly.

If you want better-tasting coffee, using bleached coffee filters is highly suggested since, according to the findings of a study, they produce less odor and flavor.

However, if you’re concerned about your carbon footprint, then use unbleached coffee filters instead. They are more natural and much better for the environment. 

Furthermore, they do not go through a complicated bleaching process. As they disintegrate, the chemicals released into the environment are far less hazardous than bleaches like chlorine.

In an evaluation, several branded coffee filters such as V60 and Chemex were tested, one is bleached while the other is natural or unbleached.

After the assessment, it was found out that the distinctions between the two V60 filters were rather small.

There was virtually little difference, while the disparities between the Chemex filters were rather noteworthy.

The white Chemex filters provided the cleanest, clearest flavor, whereas the natural Chemex filters had the greatest paper taste.

If you want to learn more, watch this video.

Do Coffee Filters Have Chemicals?

Yes. Coffee filters, particularly bleached filters, undergo a bleaching process with either chlorine or oxygen.

Filter papers are made from a variety of fiber materials. 

Long fibers and fine short fibers such as eucalyptus or special fine long non-wood fibers such as Abaca (Manila hemp) are utilized to preserve high porosity.

Natural fibers have a natural polymer structure, such as various wood pulps and vegetable fibers.

Aside from cellulose fibers, coffee filter paper may include glass fibers or a combination of natural and synthetic fibers. 

Final Thoughts

A cup of filtered coffee is far superior to unfiltered coffee since it provides numerous health benefits.

However, deciding which coffee filters to use may tilt your head a bit as it’s very confusing and challenging.

This unending dispute over which coffee filters are better ultimately comes down to your personal preferences as a consumer.

If you’re hesitant about using bleached filters, going natural is an option; use unbleached filters. 

However, unbleached coffee filters may cost you a bit more. But who wouldn’t want to pay to help save the planet?

Whichever you choose still depends on you and your preference.

Better tasting coffee or less environmental waste?

You decide.

Matt Marshall

As I learn more and more about coffee and coffee products I want to share all my learnings with you here on this website. I hope you find my articles useful and entertaining to read.

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